Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
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By: Wendy Williams
The highlights and lowlights of exhibiting overseas and trying to raise funding for it!
# 76 [27 November 2012]
It's now a year since I filled in the application for ACE funding. We've reached the final stage of the criteria set out and followed it almost to the letter. Because of my own exhibitions and other commitment, I am a bit late on reporting the last exhibition - INHOSPITABLE 1.1, now showing at the ESA project space, 64 Wellington Street, Leeds.
The exhibitions have been gathering more artists as they have rolled along. From the initial 19 artists that exhibited in Stockholm, we have now included Swedish group ArtMobile ( fellow exhibitors at SUPERMARKET, Stockholm ) and several artists from DWF.
The exhibitions - two in Liverpool ( at Bridewell studios and Gallery and Unit 8 Albert Dock) and two in Leeds ( Wellington St and Basement Arts Project) have all included talks and other events which have drawn in a wide and diverse audience.
It's difficult to give exact figures on the actual audience reached, but by linking our activities with the Liverpool Biennial, we were able to attain the best possible results.
Several of the artists began blogs ( some on a-n ) about their experiences, so this added to the audience figures.
Information about the group appeared in the SUPERMARKET catalogue and on their website from February 2012 then onto the Liverpool Independents Biennial Booklet ( circulation 5,000 ) on their website from September 2012, and consequently on their facebook and twitter accounts which highlighted all SCIBASE activities.
I've kept this blog going from the early days as a record of all of our activity, which hopefully will help other artists in their funding bids.( as well as the obvious reason of keeping ACE up to date !)
This recent blog is a little rushed I know, but I will add to it and amend when I have a little more time. The priority was to get this out this week to let everyone know about the Leeds exhibition, which ends this weekend.
Needless to say, none of this would have been possible without the backing of ACE Northwest.
SCIBase at SUPERMARKET: http://www.supermarketartfair.com/content/scibase
SCIBase and the Independents: http://www.independentsbiennial.org/2012/07/18/2012-registered-group-scibase/
# 75 [19 October 2012]
Paintings for the next exhibition were already stacked up in the space when we arrived to take our exhibition down. Such is the nature of the Independents. One blink of an eye and everyone has moved on to the next one..........
After packing our work up as carefully as possible.... ( though a comparison to Christmas decorations was made by one of the artists over two of the more 'fiddly' works!) .. We loaded everything on to the van and it made its way up to Leeds. Here it will be stored for a month before it is unpacked again and displayed one more time in the UK.
In the meantime... we all go back to our boring every day jobs and life takes on some sort of normality again.
So, unless anything drastic happens... I can give this blog a rest for a month and carry on with my own work.
# 74 [15 October 2012]
.... and so, one door is almost closing and we begin to approach another, waiting to turn the handle.
The closing event of Inhospitable at the Bridewell actually began at various times, as people started to wander in as soon as we got there. The venue has quite strict security rules - main front door to always be locked behind you as you enter the premises and all doors within the building ( studios and office) ditto. But, as there were a few of us around, we asked if, just for once, we could prop open the front door and keep it open.
....and that's when people started to enter. People that had wanted to come in, in the past, but were too 'scared' to.
I remember when the Ceri Hand gallery was in Liverpool and I felt the same apprehension over visiting on my own. It was in an 'uncomfortable' area of Liverpool and you had to ring a bell to gain entry to the gallery. I only ever went there once - to a private view, when there was safety in numbers. That's probably why she packed all her bags and moved south ( if everyone else felt the same)
The choice of venue is so important if you want people to 'follow a trail'. I was talking to someone recently, who was really excited about setting their work up in a venue not normally used as an exhibition space and as soon as I heard the address, my heart sunk and I thought 'no one is going to visit there'.
Then there is the other extreme.... after finishing our invigilation shift at the Bridewell on Saturday, I walked up to Copperas Hill with fellow exhibiting artist KImbal Bumstead, to check out at least some of the Biennial. I only had half an hour, as I had to meet up with someone, so only got to see one part - The New Contemporaries . As far as I could see, the work with quite impressive and worth a second visit, but the building is so distracting! It's a massive disused postal sorting office and it really overshadows the work. I found myself staring up at the ceiling, the beams, the pulleys...almost everything that was left in the building, rather than looking at the work itself.
But anyway.......... in an ideal world, we would have liked a more central space where people can just walk in, invigilators are paid and the building just has plain floors and a ceiling......but that wasn't ever going to happen. We do this for our work to be seen - to whatever audience is there and to whatever venue we are lucky enough to secure.
Up at the other side of town, the door stayed open and although it was bitterly cold in the corridor, our Closing event at the Bridewell was very well attended. Kimbal did his presentation - a variation of the one he did in Stockholm, but just as enthralling.
Our second venue - at Albert Dock was an empty shop. People saw it as just that and wandered in - because it was there. There was very rarely a time when no one visited. Tiring and stressful as it was to have two venues open at once, I can honestly say that it has been hugely successful.
The van from Leeds will arrive on Tuesday, we will pack up the two venues and head north.
# 73 [12 October 2012]
I started to wear my winter coat again this week and reaching into the depths of zipped up, rarely used pockets, I found paraphernalia on SUPERMARKET. It was SUPERMARKET that brought us where we are today - manically hovering between two exhibitions and trying to coordinate 20 + artists, 6 of which live and work overseas.
I would have liked to have done SUPERMARKET again next year, but we achieved what we set out to do - to take our work to Stockholm, communicate ideas with artists over there, and bring the experience back to the UK, to then share with the public.
So, the exhibition is reaching its final days......in Liverpool that is. ( the next stage is already in the pipeline)...... and we have had a sudden flurry of visitors. We are going to have a closing event as we've found that these usually work well in bringing in visitors that didn't get round to , or simply forgot to, see the exhibition beforehand. http://www.independentsbiennial.org/2012/10/10/inhospitable-closing-event-at-the-bridewell/
It could have been the publicity I sent out that reminded these recent visitors that we are here - or it could have that they were coming anyway. Whatever reason, It was good that they came.
Two more days of either coordinating invigilators, or having to invigilate myself.
Oh to go back to exhibiting in a gallery space that does all this for you : /
( scroll down to exhibition stands, and we are there - SCIBase )
# 72 [9 October 2012]
There was an open newspaper in the office, dated sometime in September. In it was an article about proposed changes of business rates to several art related venues in Liverpool. The fact that it hadn't been thrown away, highlighted the uneasiness the article had provoked.
One venue - Mello Mello, had recently learned it is to lose 80% discretionary business rates relief that was provided by the council, leaving it facing an annual bill of £30,000.
The article goes on to say that many other arts based organisations that will still receive rate relief will have to demonstrate their work with deprived communities.
The only other venue that was mentioned was Static Gallery - who recently held an auction to raise funds, but both The Bridewell and Royal Standard were mentioned when chatting to other artists at our PV. Minutes of recent meetings were left pinned on the notice board. Not really meant for the prying eyes of visitors such as myself, but still no secret was being made of the fact that they need to start some cash making ideas themselves.
We lost several arts venues in Liverpool last year, so it is quite worrying that another cull is scheduled. I hope it doesn't happen. The Bridewell in particular have been very hospitable to us ( following the Biennial theme to the letter!)
# 71 [7 October 2012]
What brings you to Liverpool? asks the man in the cafe to the two students that have been staying with me. 'We're here to get some work experience with the Biennial'. 'What's that?' asks the man. ....and that, so it seems, is the general opinion of the average person on the street here.
I wonder if they are bored with it all? There's always exhibitions popping up in Liverpool, so has the Biennial really made any difference?
I took the two students over to Liverpool this morning and received a text on route, from the next two who are staying over. I must say, this 'Collaborative Arts Society' at Leeds Uni certainly has some enthusiastic members - I just wish some of it would rub off here!
So students #1 stayed at the Albert Dock unit while students #2 did a tour of the Biennial, then swapped over early afternoon. While I did the long and lonely trek up to the Bridewell.
How many visitors did you get today? asked Ed, one of the gallery /studio directors. Three I replied. Wow - that's fantastic! He enthused. The last exhibition had days of no visitors at all.
# 70 [6 October 2012]
It was only when I 'lost' my phone that realised how much time I wasted checking emails, tweeting and scrolling through facebook. Of course, if I had a choice, I'd rather have my phone back than trying to figure out how to do even basic functions on this thing that I've borrowed.
So last night, I dropped my phone.......again. But this time, the screen cracked and the rest just died. This being the one week that I have all these students from Leeds contacting me to pick them up from the station and show them where our exhibitions are in Liverpool.
A frantic search through the house to try find one of my old cast offs was unsuccessful, so I had to try to see if I could borrow another to get me through this week. My brother came through for me - not just with the lend of a blow up mattress, but, with being a bit of a technophobe, full use of his dinky little Samsung - which he 'hardly used'.
I'd barely swapped over the Sim card when the phone rang.....Sophie, student #1 was at Lime St station asking where they should go. It was barely 10am! What's with students these days? Are they all up at the crack of dawn?
Cutting a very long story short..........I got to Liverpool, picked them up from Tate - where I thought it would be better they spend their time rather than waiting at a cold station. Took them to Unit 8 on Albert Dock and with very little prompting, they set up the monitors and DVDs, so everything was ready to go.
Ran round getting them some maps and pointed out Biennial 'Hotspots', before I had to shoot back home to get some food in and cram as much junk into cupboards as possible, to make my home/ workspace/ dog kennel, habitable.
In the meantime.........miles away.......Julie Dodd sat invigilating at the Bridewell again..........
# 69 [5 October 2012]
Invigilation is always a problem, no matter how organised you think you are. The rota we set up for the two exhibitions was pretty tight anyway, so when one person told us she couldn't do her day, there was very little we could do about it. I started asking around, but realistically, it was too short notice and with it being a week day anyway, the likelihood of a hoard of people going up to visit us at the Bridewell was very slim.
I changed the info on the website and kept tweeting all day that we were going to stay closed, hoping that all would be OK. The project is huge and in comparison this is only a very small blip - not worth losing sleep over.
The good news is that we now have at least ten Leeds Met students that are going to help with Invigilating over the next week. This though, meant that I have had to convert my work room at home to a bedroom for two to stay at a time. It's a tight squeeze and I seem to have spent most of last night and half of this morning, shifting stuff around to make a decent space.
I spent the afternoon invigilating at Bridewell , taking over from Julie Dodd, who did the first few hours. Even though the exhibition had been on for 3 days now, this was the first time I'd been able to really look at each of the works without any distractions.
We only had a handful of visitors for the day, which was such a shame, but I was grateful for a few hours of just sitting. No organising, no thinking about work and most importantly no stress.
# 68 [3 October 2012]
It was the opening night at the Bridewell last night and wouldn't you know it, it was absolutely torrential rain. If I wasn't in the exhibition, I probably would have looked outside, shut the door and sat snuggled up to watch the box. Thankfully, not everyone thought the same and we ended up with a surprisingly good turn out.
The work looked really good ( though I say so myself!) Some of the artists had given the venue a lot of thought and had made site specific work. I walked past one artwork several times thinking 'I don't remember seeing a stripey bit on the wall last time I was here', before realising that it was one of the new works! WALKERHILL -Michael Walker and Martyn Hill a collaborative duo. Graduates of the Royal College of Art and Chelsea College of Art respectively, they have exhibited their lo-fi modulations nationally and internationally.
Phill Hopkins had made use of an old glass cabinet, that we were originally going to shove into the corridor. He took the measurement of the cabinet up to Leeds to install a work of the same dimensions, during his residency at the Basement Arts Project. http://www.phill-hopkins.co.uk/gallery_381554.html
Also good to see the work of Stephen White who had painstakingly created a box made entirely from paint for the Swedish exhibition, but had made a more understated work - door mats with text for this exhibition.
I'll be invigilating Friday afternoon and Sunday, so if anyone wants a chat - please come along!
# 67 [2 October 2012]
When I got home from work last night, there was a card off the postman, saying that he had tried to deliver a parcel. I was hoping that it would be the artwork from Sweden.... and indeed it was. I had to pick it up before work, but had no time to open it. Talk about cutting things fine!
Unit 8 is now all set up, with Lydia Catterall already getting people in to talk to her. She had on a loud booming sound piece when I walked in, which caused the residents in the shop next door to complain about the noise. Oh well, what use is an artwork if no one talks about it?
While Bruce is up at Bridewell doing the final touches to the exhibition and Lydia is causing havoc in unit 8, all I can do just now is keep on photocopying and hope that no one notices what I'm printing off.
PV starts in 4 hours and I have no idea what the finished exhibition looks like ........
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